I talked about the evening at the Pepcom press event and that’s a good starting point to explain how many different kinds of CES’s there are.
First of all, you’ve been told that CES is huge, but I wanted to try to describe how big it really is. Let’s start with the Las Vegas Convention Center. It’s made up of three halls: North, Central, and South. Each hall is bigger than any entire convention center I’ve ever been in. There used to be a hotel called the Sands, and it was pulled down and the Venetian put up in its place. They left the Sands Convention Center there, and CES took up both floors of that convention center too. Steve and I walked to the Sands, 1.4 miles away so you start to get an idea of how spread apart this show is.
But wait, there are press conferences in just about every one of the big hotels. The Mandalay Bay has a giant hall and they filled that one with the Samsung press conference, along with some other giant conference rooms for overflow. That means people traveled all the way to Las Vegas…to watch the presentations on TV.
I hope that gives a bit of the flavor of how big this thing is, it’s really ALL of Las Vegas that’s involved in the show. Just imagine the cab lines for a moment with 150,000 attendees.
CES is not an open show which means people fall into specific categories of interest. There’s the press, industry analysts, buyers, and the exhibitors themselves.
There’s an app and paper maps which show you sort of how things are organized. We thought Photography and Digital Imaging would be a fun place to start, so we went to the South Hall first. We like to start in the back of an area just because you often find the little gems hiding back there. That was not the case with the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. It was zillions of tiny tiny little booths with nothing interesting to us. I’m talking booth after booth of identical looking power packs, cables and headphones. Photography evidently didn’t include Nikon, Canon, Sony, or Olympus, but darn you could see a LOT of selfie sticks! Dave Hamilton hung out with us a bit and he explained that they’re looking to OEM these products to other companies, so press is the wrong audience for these booths.
So the South Hall had too tiny of companies for us. Next we went to the Central Hall and there we found the HUGE GIANT CRAZY booths. You saw your Sonys and Samsungs and BMWs and they had signs the sizes of small buildings over booths the sizes of large buildings. I found this hall too big!
The North Hall was just right. In there we found the iProducts area and that was where the most fun was for us. We conducted more interviews here than anywhere else! All of the booths here were interesting to use.
I have an observation about technology booths, something that I find very weird. Inevitably when we walked into a booth with Steve’s camera gear and my microphone, someone would come up to us to chat which was great. These initial contact folks were usually well spoken, intelligent, oozing with personality and had a good knowledge of the products they’d describe. After about a minute if I found their pitch interesting, I would ask them for an interview. 9 times out of 10 the person would say, “Oh I’m in PR, let me get you the founder/spokesperson/CEO.” It drove me nuts! I’d beg them to please do the interview but they would shy away and say that they weren’t qualified, or not allowed to. I think the reason this bothered me so much was that usually the first contact person was a woman and they would go get a boy to do the interview!
So we’ve talked about press conferences, and private press events, and doing the show floor, but there’s another way to do CES. If you’re ever lonely and wish you had more email, I can highly recommend signing up to be on distribution for CES. We were probably averaging 75 emails a day inviting us to set up such meetings. I couldn’t see how to go about triaging these emails, how to tell what was interesting, so my solution was to simply throw them all in the trash! Other folks, like Dave Hamilton and Chuck Joiner evidently have a better attention span because they did go through the emails and set up private meetings with the vendors with whom they had interest. I say, “you go girl!” to those guys.
The one thing I didn’t find at CES was a natural way to meet people. I didn’t find networking events where I could walk up to people and ask them about their interests. If you’re looking for a substitute for the camaraderie you felt at Macworld, this is not the show for that. Like I said we got to hang out with Chuck and Dave and Bryan Chaffin and Jeff Gamet. We also managed to meet Joel Rushworth, the head minion of the Windows Phone users but that took a $45 cab ride to achieve. Shai Yammanee did come to meet us for breakfast, but that was more than an hour for him navigating the crowded streets of Vegas to achieve. Paul Kent from IDG suggested we meet up for drinks and that was positively delightful. But all of these meetups were with people we already knew. We didn’t make new friends which is something I was hoping for.
had always heard that CES was the land of products that would never come to be, that I would seen awesome stuff that I couldn’t have. Many people warned me that 75% of what I would see would never come to fruition. I’m not sure why, but nearly every single product that interested me was either available now, or shipping in the first quarter of this year. So I guess that’s yet another difference in the way people see CES.
Overall I definitely enjoyed CES, and was fascinated by the many faces of this show, but it may not be the conference you are looking for.